Council slams Highways England over A47 delays

Chris Ames

Norfolk County Council has called for Highways England to be held to account for the ‘agonisingly slow’ progress on improvements to the A47.

The council has told regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) of its ‘major concern’ that work promised in 2014 and due for completion this year has not even started.

The schemes are:

  • The Great Yarmouth junctions
  • Blofield to Burlingham dualling
  • Thickthorn junction
  • Easton to Tuddenham dualling

In 2017 Highways England announced that the Easton to North Tuddenham, Blofield to North Burlingham and Thickthorn Junction schemes were to be delayed as part of a wider reprofiling of the current Road Investment Strategy that has seen around 10% of its schemes delayed, kicked into the long grass or cancelled.

The ORR is currently consulting public bodies on how it holds Highways England to account.

The council’s proposed response points out that £300m worth of improvements were due to be completed during the current Road Investment Strategy (2015 to 2020).

On the drawing board: A route image for the A47 Blofield to North Burlingham scheme

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: ‘The Government approved the funding in 2014 and Highways England should be completing improvements to the A47 this year – but it has not even started work.

‘Norfolk is missing out on economic growth, new homes and jobs because of this continued delay. It’s unacceptable and we want the regulator to intervene early in cases like this.’

The council said it is concerned that the revised construction start dates of 2021/22 will not be met.

A Highways England spokesperson said: ‘We share the Norfolk County Council’s eagerness so see the upgrades delivered as soon as possible and value their support as we take each scheme through its development.’

The government-owned company said it has been developing the schemes through the current RIS period for delivery between 2020 and 2025.

The Blofield to North Burlingham and A47 North Tuddenham to Easton schemes are currently set to start work in spring 2022 while the Thickthorn junction upgrade is expected to start in spring next year.

The start date for the Great Yarmouth junctions scheme is still to be confirmed.

All four schemes were in fact listed as part of the current RIS, rather than to be ‘developed for the next Road Period’. 

The council report states: ‘The expectation when the Government announced the inclusion of the A47 schemes within the programme for 2015-2020 was that they would be constructed within that period. We have, however, yet to see a start on any of the schemes.’

‘Progress in development and delivery of the schemes has been agonisingly slow. Norfolk is extremely concerned about the ability of Highways England to deliver such projects.’

The council said it is encouraging the ORR, when faced by issues like this, to ‘meaningfully intervene’ at an early stage, and seek an early resolution.

The report will be considered by the infrastructure and development select committee on Wednesday (29 January), before being considered by the cabinet on 3 February.

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